She Doesn’t See Barriers
by Joan Dowling
If you know Zenia Mucha at all, one thought might come to mind — the American Dream. As a child, she immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and, as she recounts, “I was a first-generation immigrant.” While she admits she’s been inspired by many individuals throughout her career, her parents have been the most inspirational people in her life.
“I watched my parents try for 10 years to come to the United States and get repeatedly turned down,” she remembers. “It was their resilience in striving to come to America for a better life that was truly an inspiration for me. Once I was here, I never really saw any barriers. It was more about doing the things I wanted to do and the things I was passionate about.”
Given her childhood experience, it’s no surprise that Zenia developed an interest and passion for politics, starting as a volunteer supporting political campaigns, which later turned into a 20-year professional career in politics. In her last political role, she served as the director of communications and senior policy advisor to New York State Governor George Pataki. During that time, she earned a reputation in the media and political circles as being one of his closest advisors and confidantes. It was her political experiences that have shaped Zenia’s belief that the “communications role is a critical component of business” and, as she describes it, provided the right foundation for her move into corporate communications.
Today, as executive vice president and chief communications officer at The Walt Disney Company, Zenia is responsible for all global communications, including acting as chief spokesperson and overseeing communication strategy and media relations for the company, its business segments and its philanthropic and environmental initiatives. Her role also includes oversight of internal communications, the Walt Disney Archives and D23, and she sees definite similarities between her work in politics and corporate America.
“In government service, you get an enormous amount of experience as you work on various policies involving legal and financial issues as well as working with multiple agencies. Everyone has their responsibilities, yet they need to work towards a common goal,” she explains. “Similarly, at Walt Disney, we have a number of different businesses, all with unique identities that need to grow as an individual business yet fit into the global company vision.”
As a 2012 Matrix Award winner, Zenia considers herself “privileged to be among such a stellar group of women in this field who have come before me and those recognized with me this year. It’s quite an honor.” She also notes that it represents another example of how communications has become such an integral part of corporate America.
In discussing what makes her most proud, Zenia easily says it’s “the people I’ve worked with or who have worked for me, whether they were interns, assistants or junior team members. Many of them have gone on to become extremely successful leaders in their own right. I tried to instill in them that irrespective of where they started, their future is the future they want it to be, they just need to focus and work hard and understand it doesn’t happen overnight. If you are persistent and work hard, there are people who will recognize that and you can achieve anything you want.”
Her mantra, it seems, is that at the end of the day, you have to believe in what you do, in your product and in your company. Zenia’s advice to women entering the workforce today is not to look for limits but rather look at opportunities. Take on challenges with optimism and remember that “when you believe in what you do, there are no limits.” Good advice indeed.
Joan Dowling is a marketing strategist at AT&T.